Unlike many, I never was really into the "text-based/point-and-click" adventure genre. It's more that I never actually played any, especially since for a great majority of my childhood, I preferred games that gave me more action than words. But as I matured, I began to appreciate aspects such as storytelling, the use of wits and brains, and the likes. So, the more text, the more hooked I was. The Nintendo DS allowed me to visit what most people call the revisiting of text-based/point-and-click adventure gaming. Games such as Trace Memory
, Hotel Dusk: Room 215
(which is excellent, by the way), and finally, the Ace Attorney series
. I may not have played a lot of text-based/point-and-click adventure games still, but these titles are filling the bill for me, at least so far.
I finally got myself a copy of the first game, simply called Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
, and boy, it was love at first sight. I'm easily amused, so the humorous puns and anime-style effects that seemed over-the-top for what was pretty much a courtroom simulator game (well, it's not juuust thaaat...). And alongside that were charming and memorable characters, good storytelling and... er, good music. Of course. So, having loved the first, I eventually played the second, Justice For All
, and the third, Trials & Tribulations
. I loved them, especially the third, which, in my own humble opinion, closed the "Phoenix Arc/Trilogy" perfectly well. I told myself, "Okay, they closed the book, and it was very well done. So, Phoenix's story is over now. It has to be."
Aaand then came the fourth title, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
, which claimed itself the beginning of a "NEW TRIAL!"
The fact that a fourth game was on its way, AND was going to introduce us to new characters completely, including a whole new protagonist, was actually something that hit me quite well. I loved those news. I loved the first three games, and the third one closed everything nicely, I thought, so opening a whole new book, in the same library, wouldn't be bad at all. Plus, I liked Apollo Justice, even when his name was announced. Boy, a lot of people reacted to a name so blatantly obvious as Apollo JUSTICE
, who was a defense attorney.
It's when I saw that dude in the hoodie and a flamboyant beanie that I began having mixed thoughts. Because I was told who he was soon after. It was him
. He was back
. Phoenix Wright, legendary ace attorney, was still around in the fourth game, which took place seven years after the third game. SOMEHOW, I had a feeling he wasn't just there for a quick here-then-gone. But more on that later.
Phoenix Wright, while back, still wasn't the main protagonist. Apollo Justice, a young greenhorn defense attorney armed with his cherished Chords of Steel™
, now fits those shoes, ready to defend the innocent and make sure justice
(har har!) is served. Apollo shares the same thirst for truth and justice
(har har!) than Phoenix did, with a fiery heart, burning red. This guy's all over his job, isn't he? He's got the name, he's got the chords, he's got the heart. He's loaded, and courtrooms better hold on something 'cause here comes Justice! Okay, I'll stop now.
Being the first in the series to first appear as a Nintendo DS entry, rather than a refined-GBA-port to the DS like the previous three games, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
took a high step forward as far as looks go. Animations are more detailed, smoother and, well, just look overall better. Backgrounds share these upgrades, which you'll notice especially when you first set your eyes on the familiar locations from the former trilogy --- the defendant lobby, the courtroom, the detention center... --- which does bring a feeling of fresh air, even if those familiar locations are the "same as before." And improved animations and art really helps in games like these where storytelling and character development is fleshed out by a pleasant sync-merge of text and imagery.
The music, as well, is vastly improved. Rather than sounding like DS-quality GBA songs, they actually sound on a higher level, using the actual DS sound technology. Toshihiko Horiyama, of Mega Man X4 fame apparently, is to thank for the soundtrack. As usual, songs fit their appropriate situations. And Apollo's theme is just so cool. I got hooked on it ever since the trailer.
As far as gameplay goes, Ace Attorney games pretty much puts you in the shoes of a defense attorney who likes to do detective work outside courtrooms. Forget ambulance chasing; this is evidence chasing. You travel around locations relevant to the current case, examine said locations (AND your evidence!) as much as possible to find anything that could work to your advantage, meet and question witnesses or just chat with other characters who are either involved to the case, or are there to help out or have information to drain out of. As far as investigations go, it's usually somewhat linear. Sure, you can move around how you want, talk to people in the order you want, but you usually... no, you DO always get to a point where things don't progress until you got specific evidence, or talked to specific people about specific things. But, in Ace Attorney, that's how it rolls, and at least you have different conversation options along the way, which, while it's nowhere close to being replay value, it at least does something
In addition to this usual Ace Attorney routine, you get to do some scientific investigating using forensic tools, such as dusting for fingerprints, or that kind of stuff. So, in addition to examining most of your piece of evidence, you can even interact with some of them, or the locations you explore. Players of the first game who particularly liked the DS-exclusive fifth case feel right at home here. (Especially since Ema and Phoenix are there, hahaha...)
You do not only investigate, though (zomg no wai!?), and you'll find yourself in court whenever you're not investigating. Basically, this involves you cross-examining people on the witness stand, and doing your best at finding contradictions, and doing this until the plot/court gets to the point where you finally proved your client innocent. Only this time, there's a little twist. While Phoenix, starting his second game, gained a little 'weapon' that allowed his investigations to go smoother by more or less 'unlocking' secrets out of people, Apollo has his own 'weapon' that he uses in the courthouse. This is called the Perceive System. Basically, people on the witness stand that you cross-examine tend to display nervous ticks or physical reactions during certain parts of their testimonies. Using the mysterious power of his bracelet, Apollo 'perceives' (well, you
need to find them out) these nervous habits by focusing really, really hard on them, and points them out, pretty much flustering the witness. Just like Phoenix's little weapon, the Perceive System can only be done at set times (i.e. when the game lets you) by clicking an icon of your bracelet, which is otherwise grayed out.
I think that pretty much covers the whole thing.
Now, the next section is dedicated to one thing that I found overwhelming about the game. A lot of people were somewhat irked by many details about this new entry to the series. Some didn't like this, others didn't like that, some liked this, others liked that. So the next section is me taking the most frequent complains from some players (including me before sorting it out...) and putting some thoughts into them. Whether it makes sense and is acceptable is for debate, but personally, I think those points are good. I'll have to thank GameFAQs' board of the game for engaging in discussions about those points with me. It assisted. So, here we go, but first, naturally...
THERE WILL BE MASSIVE SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PORTION OF THE REVIEW; IF YOU DIDN'T PLAY IT YET, DO NOT READ FURTHER!
Issue #1: Phoenix Wright takes too much space; Apollo development suffers
A considerable amount of fans of the series who played this game found that Apollo Justice, titular protagonist of a whole new story, was somewhat... underdeveloped.
Phoenix Wright returns in this game, and is actually quite a big point of focus in the game. The game loves to throw his tragic backstory at you as much as possible. Seven years ago from this game, Phoenix took a case that ended up costing him his badge. The first case of the game --- and if you recall, except the third game's first case, those are usually light, short and serve more as tutorials and introductions than focusing on the actual plot --- has you, Apollo, defending your very first client, who is Phoenix Wright. This is not your typical first case, however, and it goes without saying that Apollo is more of a proxy here, as you eventually witness the case being taken over by Phoenix's cunning mastermind. The guy pretty much takes the current case into his hands and uses everything to his well-planned advantage, only really turning to Apollo when he really needs him, as the defense, to move on with his points.
In the first Ace Attorney game, Phoenix had the help of his mentor, Mia, during his first case, sure. But he still did most of the work himself, with Mia only pointing out stuff vaguely ("Phoenix, didn't some part of the testimony sound a little odd?"). Sure, he depended a lot on Mia for a good part of the games too, but he still did a lot of the work. Here, Apollo does some work, but he usually just follows Phoenix's mastermind planning. Phoenix is the one in control. Not Apollo. And even though, I'll say it right now, the first case in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney
is actually pretty thrilling and bears quite a surprising twist, it still would've been nice if the first trial we get to accompany Apollo into, he would've been able to stand on his own feet by himself.
By the time the first case ends, we didn't learn much at all about Apollo. Only that he's a defense attorney. In fact, the two times he narrates himself to us, he only states his name and profession. That's all. At least Phoenix, in his first game, hinted at his backstory as to why he's a lawyer. On that matter, other than a revelation learned in this game's fourth case, which Apollo isn't even aware himself, there's pretty much zero background material about him. Nothing. And Phoenix got background material in his first game. And the guy hogs this game, too? Spikey-haired n'wah!
What more, the fourth case of the game (in Ace Attorney games, the fourth case is always the most anticlimatic one) is pretty much about Phoenix so much that you actually play as him for a big portion of it. The heck was Apollo even doing during the MASON System? Don't take me wrong after all that, I don't dislike Phoenix, but let me play as the main character, not the FORMER main character! Is this Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, or Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney ? Here Comes Justice?
I know I'm pushing this one issue quite long, but sometimes they even go as far as throw Phoenix in cases that actually have nothing to do with him or his past. Like the game's second case.
The drill with the second case is that multiple crimes occur in one night, which they all lead to one conclusion, et cetera, et cetera. And in one of those crimes (a hit and run, as hinted by the picture), it just so happens that the victim of that crime was Phoenix Wright. This does nothing but serve as an excuse to have him present in the case's investigations so you can get in conversations with him so he can sometimes be humorous, or sometimes trigger his sad reminiscence theme song and have troubled conversations about his last case seven years ago. This really sounds like I'm complaining that Phoenix's there all the time, but it's not really that
, but it's obvious the guy's taking a lot of space here.
At least he's absent for 96.5% of the third case...
Issue #2: Where's Maya? And any of Phoenix's friends?
Safe for Ema Skye, nobody else from Phoenix's past is present in the present timeline of this game. Maya, Pearl, Edgeworth, Larry... they're completely absent.
Well, as for Edgeworth and Larry, it's pretty much obvious why they're not around, since this isn't Phoenix's... story... anymore. And it'd be the tip of the iceberg if his cast of characters'd hog Apollo's story too. I mean, Christ.
But Maya, at the limit, is the big question. Where is she? Hell, during a flashback sequence in the fourth case, which is about --- you guessed it! --- Phoenix Wright, he's in the courtroom by himself. No sidekick. And by that, I mean no Maya. Where the hell was she?
Well, naturally, if you played and beat the third game, you'll have a pretty good assumption as to why she's not there. Or Pearl, for that matter. Hint: they got really, really important stuff to take over now. Or rather, Maya does, and Pearl most likely helps. And it's not like Maya's out of his life or anything either. It's quite implied in the second case of this game, in an optional examination of a room while Phoenix is present there, that Maya (or Pearl) keeps sending DVDs of the Steel Samurai show and its sequels to Phoenix.
What fueled this issue is that, neither during said flashback sequence or the present time does Phoenix drop a specific reference to Mia when examining the Wright & Co. Law Offices. Whenever he mentions Mia, he only said "my mentor." This actually rubbed people the wrong way, apparently, but if you think about it in both perspectives:
PRESENT TIME: Apollo didn't need to know, and Phoenix had no relevant reasons to point out specifically, just who Phoenix's former mentor was. Even if he'd go and say "Oh, this was Mia Fey's ____. Who's Mia Fey? Doesn't matter, now, does it?" Some fanservice-ish references can be thrown in, but some just aren't worth it if it supplies nothing more than sheer, blatant fanservice just for the sake of fanservice.
FLASHBACK SEQUENCE: Given the nature of the flashback sequence --- it being a literal simulation called the MASON System that Phoenix made to revisit the past and parts of it that are relevant to the current, present case --- there's really, absolutely no reason why Phoenix would've slammed in mentions of Mia Fey when examining his offices and her former belongings other than by "my mentor" for those using this simulation, as it would've done nothing
for them. Same thing for when Phoenix talks about his Magatama. He makes no reference to who gave it to him --- Pearl Fey --- or anything that was related to it other than point out he got it during a "certain case." Again, other than sheer fanservice, there was no reason whatsoever for Phoenix to bring up either Mia or Pearl, and what is mistaken as a flaw is actually, in reality, a pro that makes sense.
To close this up, I don't mind that the old cast is behind now, especially since it's been hinted well enough he didn't cut his old ties. While not officially stated, he seems still in contact with Maya/Pearl, and for all we know, maybe he's still in contact with, say, Edgeworth or Butz, but has no reason at all to bring it up ever. It makes sense, when you think about it.
Issue #3: Phoenix's fall from grace is unworthy for the legendary attorney that he was!
Mixed bags here, to be honest. It's true that, after having become an ace attorney of renown --- heck, a legend --- for having found and revealed the truth, no matter how obscure, in such ways that indeed earned him the Judge's quote, "Mr. Wright has a talent... for the ridiculous!", the way Phoenix loses his badge can be perceived as somewhat... well, unworthy.
Mr. Wright here was accused of forging evidence seven years ago, after presenting said forged evidence during his last trial. This led to him losing the case --- although his client was never given a guilty verdict --- and he lost his badge along with it.
Let's rewind a bit. The day before the trial? That's when he got the case. He got a somewhat big case on a single day's notice. That means that the more ammo he has, the better. And when a little girl comes by before the trial and gives him a piece of paper that, to his eyes, is just like every decisive evidence he got in the past that got him out of a really bad spot, how can he say no? Sure, it's fishy that some little girl comes by and gives him that sheet of paper, saying an unnamed person told her to give him that sheet of paper, but by then, he's not really in the mind to question everything: he's just about to step in the courtroom, ready to defend his client with as little ammo as he got. It's POSSIBLE that he just didn't bother hitting the Fishy Alert button.
Another aspect to see about this is who is responsible for causing him to be disbarred. It's not necessary for me to name the person, so that's one unnecessary spoiler kept out, but this man was a defense attorney who was initially the one to defend that client Phoenix took the defense of in that case. That client tested both that man, and Phoenix, however, by challenging them to poker. The truth is, he was watching the man behind the cards, and judging their true faces in this simple card game. He saw that the man only cared about himself, while Phoenix really, really wanted, more than anything, to defend his clients.
So when the client pretty much told his first lawyer to scram and hired Phoenix instead, that man --- who prepared the aforementioned forged sheet of paper to aid himself in court --- pretty much doesn't take it well, and arranges it so Phoenix presents the forged evidence, tips the prosecutor about it, and sits back and enjoys as Phoenix gets rammed in the face in court.
So, yeah. Think about it. There really is no problem. Phoenix had only just taken the case and had little time to prepare, he gets given the fake diary page moments before the trial so he has no time to mull over it, anything that he thinks could help him in the trial I would expect him to take due to his overall lack of investigation --- repeat, lack of investigation --- and evidence.
Plus when he does present the evidence he gets caught red handed so I don't see what is so bad about the whole situation really, presenting forged evidence is a serious offense, not even being Phoenix Wright can save you from the punishment, and letting him go off the hook with it just because he's got a lot of renown would be bias. That's like, "Hey, if I become a legendary ace attorney, I can present forged evidence, at least once! I'll totally get away with it!"
Issue #4: Prosecution's rockin'! But where's the tension?
These are complains I used on people before even playing the game, like a bunch of this very list, too. I did feel kind of embarrassed when I actually saw Klavier Gavin, this game's main prosecutor, in court.
Unlike the former non-Payne prosecutors of the series, Klavier is actually a good, honest man and a nice guy, who, while a perfectionist, didn't give two damns about his winning record in court. He was after the truth, and thus, after justice. Just like Apollo was. Despite that, he wasn't Apollo, so he and Apollo didn't always agree with everything in court. Klavier needed to be convinced, of course, and when he was, he didn't waste a single second leaping against the real culprit alongside you. As for the tension in court, given Apollo's reactions to his prosecuting procedures (such as panicking, being surprised, sweating and being irritated), how can you say there's no tension?
Because he's not evil? Because he doesn't bear a grudge against Apollo? Because he doesn't pull off Edgeworth-style evil traps that, when things seem to be going well, he pretty much tries to screw you over and ruin your progress? Because he didn't object every time Apollo even blinked? Well, I say he added his own style and substance to the courtroom, and outside the courtroom. Klavier was a good character and a good prosecutor.
Issue #5: The MASON System; controversial?
Only when mistaken as time travel, like some people thought it was. It's, in fact, a simulation that Phoenix made for the Jury (JURY? IN MAH ACE ATTORNEH!?). Oh, and as for the Jurist System, I'm just going to say it's not as bad as people say it is, even though the way you pick the ending at the end was stupid, especially given who makes the decision, AND how it's been completely proved to you and everyone else who the culprit really was. The bad ending sucked, too, anyway.
Issue #6: Game is too short, and/or fourth case is way too short!
Another flaw I heard about people a lot. It didn't seem that short to me. There was a lot of reading in the fourth case, and the first case itself felt longer than the other games'. So, at least to me, it didn't feel as short as I kept hearing. Mayhaps it's an illusion created by the fact that the last game, Trials & Tribulations
, had five whole cases (well, two of them were court-only, but still). The length of the game was fine to me, but this varies between people, I suppose. Depends on how fast you beat the game, how much time you spend on it in each sitting, and how much optional content (examining stuff, etc.) you skip. Those count, you know.
Whew. Wow, this... this was pretty long, wasn't it? I hope it wasn't TOO long. Well, while I didn't cover up every single nitpicky-esque details about the game, I did what I wanted to, I focused on the general issues people seem to have had with this game. I do hope this long review helped both people curious about getting the game, as well as people who played the game and were bothered by some or all of those issues, effectively clearing them up.
I misjudged this game for a lot of those reasons without having played it, and I do sincerely hope as many people as possible can avoid being misled like I was. While not flawless, it's not a bad start for a new trial, even if it didn't turn out to be so new.